S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Thinking Drought

Image S Sorrensen

My place. Tuesday, 9.30am

Stormy weather,’ she sings.

‘Yeah right,’ I think, looking out over the valley from my shack under the cliffs.

I don’t recognise the singer’s voice. Her emotional rendering of this classic falls from the speakers, filling the shack and spilling out onto the verandah where I sit, nursing a coffee.

A bit of stormy weather would be good right now. The valley hasn’t seen rain for a while. My garden is surviving though. I have to be more water conscious now, but my tank still has plenty of water. Seeing as we get prolonged dry spells, I installed a big tank. It would be silly not to.

There’s no sun up in the sky,’ she sings.

Ha. Well, there is. And it’s burning me already. It’s winter, but the sun’s morning heat has me pulling off my shirt. These are dry times, but that’s not unusual. Drought is the norm is Australia. The climate here is dry with some wet spells. Be prepared. The Indigenous people knew this. They didn’t overtax land when it was lush, so the land had resilience when the dry inevitably came. The original people didn’t populate with the fecundity of the wet years; they kept their numbers to a level that could be supported, even in the big dries. It would be silly not to.

Life is bare,

Gloom and misery everywhere,’ she sings.

How can stormy weather make life bare? Right now, it would be wonderful. I’d dance in the rain – after I’d checked that the gutters were clear and the water was easily running from roof to tank. Water is precious.

Drought is big news at the moment. Farmers are doing it tough. They need public money to get by. Politicians are calling for water allocated to the environmental requirements of the great Murray-Darling river system to be diverted to the farmers. Because there’s a drought. And they’re doing it tough.

And, obviously, they hadn’t planned for a drought. Which seems a bit of an oversight…

Just can’t get my poor self together,’ she sings.

I went to the Q&A session in Lismore recently. If you want public debate with community input, forget government, you have to go to television, right? And Q&A is a public forum, right?

Lismore had submitted hundreds of questions on a range of topics, and the citizens packed city hall. The topic, indicated by the choice of panellists, was the drought. That night I learned a few things…

I learned that Q&A is first and foremost a television show. However much we may desire participation in the social discourse, television will not fill that democratic void. We were not participants but audience. The agenda was set by the show.

Can’t go on,

All I had in life is gone,’ she sings.

The panel consisted of the government and shadow ministers for agriculture, the head of the National Farmers Federation, a ‘people’s panellist’ and a local ex-mayor. There was no scientist or environmentalist. The minister for agriculture showed his contempt for the environment and people who support its preservation. He, the shadow minister, the Farmers’ Federation boss and the host never questioned the current agricultural approach; never acknowledged that many agricultural practices exacerbate the effects of drought, put profit above environment and sustainability below short-term gain.

It wasn’t a discussion, it was a promotion of the very thinking that is desertifying farmlands, depleting aquifers, warming the planet and making the few rich. It was telly.

I should have stayed at home and watered my garden. Silly not to.

Stormy weather,

Keeps raining all the time,’ she sings.

Oh, shut up.


2 responses to “S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Thinking Drought”

  1. Micky Foss says:



    for putting under the microscope the whole Q$A…. ups Q&A….. kerfuffle in such eloquent, succinct and poetic words. Much much appreciated. Can “we’ send your words to Q$A…. ups Q&A?. I (for one I presume) will be a very happy signaturee ( is that a word??? probably not but I have made it into one just now)

    With affection and appreciation


  2. Mullum Rush says:

    Noticed the People’s Panisred was a Sorrenson from Kyogle. I know there is only one S but wondering if your related? Anyhoo, in hindsight We shoulda known it was Telly & organised ourselves better. With sufficient numbers in the audience, the power of like minded people could have hijacked the show & at least get the questions asked, alas We won’t hear the answers.

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